I am an atheist however I have found much inspiration in the basic text of Buddhism and find it interesting that as a religion it is fairly well oriented as an atheistic belief system. I just wonder how many people look at Buddhism and feel the same

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Well, yeah. But that's what religions do. 

They absorb the dominant influences of the people that practice it. 

Again, I can't speak for ancient writings or holy texts. All I can do is share my experiences living in a Buddhist nation with Buddhists folks. 

We could play this game with any religion, I'm sure. 

No True Scotsman Fallacy aside, how many people actually practice the letter of their religious scriptures? 

Vietnamese Buddhists are different than Thai Buddhists. 

Even within Thailand, there are variations. 

Chang Mai has a cluster vegetarians and Tibetan Buddhists. Their customs are different Their menu is different. 

LOL

I think if Tibetan Buddhists restricted themselves to a vegetarian diet it would be a very limited diet. "In Tibet, where vegetables have been historically very scarce, and the adopted vinaya was the Nikaya Sarvāstivāda, vegetarianism is very rare..." (source)

They actually believe that Tantric practices allow them to forgo vegetarianism. Go figure. (source)

I dunno, honestly. I just know they make some kick-ass vegetarian dishes that constitute a huge portion of eateries up north. 

I'm guessing the Chang Mai Tibetan Buddhists are not actual immigrants from Tibet. At least second generation, I'd wager. Full disclosure, I've got no stats or facts to back that up, that was just the feel I got. 

Expatriate Tibetan Buddhists apparently frequently go vegetarian. It just hasn't been practical (or healthy) to be vegetarian in Tibet. The main vegetable crops tend to be grains and potatoes with fruits and green vegetables being in relatively short supply. This is due to the great elevation and the nature of the climate. On the other hand, herd animals thrive relatively speaking. 

China has been westernizing Tibet just as it itself has been westernizing. Certain fast foods are now available in Lhasa, for example.

And they have tons of temples. I visited Chang Mai a few months ago, had a great time and saw a lot of interesting sites.

The temples in Chang Mai had notable differences to those in Krabi or near Bangkok. Maybe just a regional stylistic difference, but I'd not be surprised to find that there were doctrinal differences as well.

You should have told me you were going to Thailand 

I could have hooked you up with....everything...everywhere! 

... sorry.
Phone cut off.
What I was trying to say was that my experience comes from living in a Buddhist nation and a Buddhist household...
Not reading at Barnes and Noble.
So anecdotal, true.
I mean, I could get my friends to chime in. That's their life.. they live it. But wouldn't that just be more anecdotes?
At the end of the day, I think legitimacy is with the actual daily life and practices...
not in the texts.

I see a lot of ignorance of Buddhism here. The original Buddhism, Hinayana Buddhism, was totally non-theistic (I think atheistic is taking it a bit too far). It wasn't concerned with deities but with the key to happiness, defined in Buddhism more as contentment and absence of mental turmoil than as any sort of religious orgasm.

However, as Buddhism spread, just as when Christianity spread, it made itself easier to swallow by adopting and adapting to local beliefs.

Thus, what I see here is like the blind men examining the elephant.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.
"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.
"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

Buddhism can be described in as many ways as there are variations. Theravada (the closest version to the original) is very different from Tibetan Buddhism, which is deeply polytheist, which is different from Zen, which is very abstract. Some versions have prayer, some not. Most involve meditation, but not all.

No answer to what Buddhism is is going to be true for all of Buddhism. The only thing they all have in common as far as I can see is reverence for Gautama Buddha.

I agree.
Like any religion, the culture dominates the system.
There are huge variations... Massive differences from place to place and people to people.

I know that Buddhism is not the only religion in which meditation plays a big part, but it has been the most user-friendly for me.  I know much more about Christianity, but it does not have corresponding contemplative tools that have ever actually facilitated functional change in my state of being. 

The concepts of being nonjudgmental and being aware of the present moment have helped me in a practical, real-life manner more than any Christian literature, rhetoric, or maniacal ranting has.

I actually own Buddhism for Dummies.  I think I will have to read more about it.  I will put it in the lineup.  

If all the world's religions were peaceful, chances are TA would not exist the same as it does in its current incarnation. I know I wouldn't be here. In particular, 911 was the event that flipped me into being openly anti-religious.

Variations of Buddhism have their variations of woo, but it mostly addresses philosophical questions that practically everyone has when growing up. I never influenced my kids with religion, but they still had questions about life. I mostly taught them to not just believe what other people believe, especially when those other people preach forcefully.

In particular, 911 was the event that flipped me into being openly anti-religious.

Based on what I've seen it did the same for Richard Dawkins as well.

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